Who am I?

ros1Ros, in black and white, trying not to lean against the picture on the wall behind her?

ros2Ros, in colour, looking serious, as if this matters?

ros3Ros, thinking that if she turns her head any further, something is going to crack?

ros4Ros, smiling because this is going to be over soon?

ros5Ros, sighing, because apparently it’s not over quite yet?

ros6Ros, leaning her elbows on the table, and looking earnestly into your eyes?

So which one should I pick? Obviously, I am looking for the one that makes you think you immediately want to rush out and buy all my books. Or, failing that, at least want to follow me on twitter.

What I did on my summer holidays

Gosh, I’ve been away for a long time. Hello! Did you miss me? Or were you off having exciting adventures of your own this summer?

Here’s what’s happened in the last six weeks:

  1. I went to the Lake District for a week. It rained every day. Also, I was not relaxed because I had three huge looming deadlines shortly after I returned. Also, there are a LOT of people who go on holiday to the Lake District and I found it hard to escape the crowds and relax. On the plus side, I got to spend some time with the lovely Kate Hewitt, and Andy Murray won Wimbledon.
  2. It was hot. Too hot. For two weeks when I needed to work really, really hard. I had revisions to do on the footballer book, and I had to finish Hattie and Tom’s book to send to the editor. I did get there in the end. At 3am the night before I was due to go away again.
  3. I went on summer camp (no actual camping involved, phew). This is a thing I have done for over 20 years, though not for the last few years, so it was good to go back again this summer.
  4. I had three days at home, one of which was spent in Manchester catching up with an old university friend, which was such a treat.
  5. A long weekend in Northern Ireland including a wedding and chance to visit other friends. I had a really wonderful time and hope to go back again sometime soon.
  6. Three more days at home including… FINISHING AND SUBMITTING THE THESIS!!!!  I know, right?! I can’t quite believe it either. I still have to have the viva and doubtless there will be corrections, but IT IS DONE.
  7. Very kind friends invited me on their family holiday in Scotland. I’ve been here for two weeks and thoroughly spoiled – no driving, no cooking, no decision-making. It’s been miserable weather mostly (apart from the one glorious day when we went to Skye), but it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve swum in the sea, taken boat trips and seen seals, a basking shark and sea otters. I’ve had an impromptu spinning lesson, eaten wild raspberries warm from the sun, and begun writing a new story.

I’ll be home again tomorrow and getting ready over the bank holiday weekend for normal life to resume. It’s going to be an exciting few months with two new books coming out. Lying for the Camera should be available to buy from the last week in September and An Unsuitable Husband is due out with Entangled in December, I think. I’m also planning to finish up the Scottish short story and have that on sale in October or November.

Me, with Scottish castle:  scotland-004

Me! Me!

What, you mean that’s not how you say ‘meme’?

1. Do you like having your picture taken?
Really not. I don’t love how I look in photos, but mostly I just find photo-taking intrusive. I genuinely don’t understand the compulsion to document every event with photos. I have very few photos on display (just a few baby photos that friends have sent recently), because I already know what my friends and family look like.

2. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
I would go to the East Coast of the US, see all my friends in Glenside and visit Cresheim Valley Church, visit my favourite shops in New York and then get the Queen Mary back from New York to Southampton. It would be the best holiday ever in the history of holidays.

Oh, no, wait.

3. Have you ever done crossword puzzles?
I learned to do cryptic crosswords by watching my father. I don’t buy papers any more, but whenever I have one around, I’ll usually have a go at the crosswords. I’m bad at finishing them. Usually I’ll have one or two clues that I can’t get.

One of my proudest achievements was winning the Spectator Christmas Crossword Competition one year. £50 and a bottle of port.

4. Pick up the closest book and write a sentence at random from it.
Bishop Porphyrius had this mosaic floor laid. (There is a picture of the floor. Very pretty.)

5. Do the same with a lyric from either a cd or the radio.
“For fewer options, press five.”

I don’t really listen to CDs or music radio. The TV is on and I wrote down the line they were saying at the time.

6. Have you ever tried to analyse your own dreams?
Not really. I don’t often remember them.

7. Can you sing?
Loudly, but not reliably in tune.

8. Do you ever sing to yourself while doing everyday tasks?
Sometimes. I’ll often sing while I’m driving.

9. What’s your favourite colour of post-it note?
I don’t think I have one. But at the moment I have a pad of post-its from Liberty with a pattern on. They are lovely.

10. Have you ever lied to get off the phone or out of talking to someone on line?
I don’t know. I try not to lie ever, but I probably have.

11. What does your bedroom look like?
Small but perfect. I think there are pictures somewhere. Here:

bedroom1

I am most proud of the wallpaper border I put around the edge of the ceiling. It has not fallen off at all.

12. Do you read your horoscope?
Nor.

13. Would you rather chew gum or use mouthwash?
I loathe chewing gum and would ban it if I were Queen. I don’t regularly use mouthwash, though I probably should.

14. How many times a year about are you ill?
No idea. Once or twice, maybe? Depends what counts as being ill.

15. Ever been in an aeroplane?
Yes. First time in 2006, for a day trip to Ireland, in preparation to move to America.

16. What colour are your eyes?
Brown.

17. Have you ever been arrested?
Certainly not.

18. What is your favourite t-shirt?
My t-shirts are mostly boring and functional.

19. What food disgusts you the most?
Liver. Or tripe. Something like that.

20. What is your favourite soda?
Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade. It is ridiculously expensive but I do love it.

21. Name one person your life is made better by.
It feels very odd to pick one, when there are so many. I just wrote the acknowledgements for my thesis and struggled to get it onto one page.

22. Can you do maths with ease?
Yes. I always could.

23. Are you a vegetarian?
No, and I have no intention of ever becoming one.

24. Name one of your passions in life.
Colour.

25. What’s your least favourite time of day?
Morning. The earlier, the worse.

26. What colour is the inside of your head when you close your eyes?
Black, mostly.

27. Ever listen to classical music?
Not often. See above, re. not listening to music.

28. Do you work? What is your job?
I do some work for my church. And I write books. And I am just finishing my PhD. I think that’s enough for now.

29. What is the best present you’ve ever given someone else?
I gave my parents tickets to the Royal Opera House. I think my mother really liked that.

30. What is the best present someone else has ever given to you?
The actual Old Shed.

31. Do you wear a watch?
No.

32. What’s on your computer desk?
A few books and a small pile of paper. It’s a big desk and I try hard to keep it clear.

33. Do you think you’re pretty / goodlooking?
Pretty, maybe. I like my face.

34. How many people do you live with?
Just me.

35. What do you collect?
I am trying not to collect anything at the moment because my house is too full already. It has quite a lot of yarn and books in it.

36. Have you ever bought anything just because it was a fad?
I don’t think so.

37. What do you think about when you first wake up in the morning?
Can I go back to sleep for a bit?

38. Do you bite your nails?
Occasionally but mostly only when one gets broken and I haven’t got any scissors/file handy.

39. What colour are most of your clothes?
Pink and blue. But lots of other colours too.

40. What’s your favourite cereal?
Wheat.

41. Do you like to look people in the eye?
Yes. I really hate having phone conversations because I can’t see the other person.

So there you go. More about me than you ever wanted to know.

Holiday!

I’m going away for a week. So far all I have packed is my knitting and my colouring books. Oh, and I have been sorting out my kindle so I have something to read. Should probably pack some clothes next.

While I’m away, here’s some cool things you could be doing:

READING
Cecilia Grant’s latest book came out this week. Like her previous two books, A Woman Entangled is not your normal historical romance. It’s clever and interesting and I’m only a few chapters into it but I’m really looking forward to having time to savour every word.

awe

KNITTING

Andy Murray’s into the fourth round at Wimbledon. Hooray! And while you’re cheering him on, why not knit yourself a pair of Wimbledon footlets?

KICKSTARTING

Hattie got off to a great start last weekend, but there’s still a way to go to reach the funding target. Read more about the campaign here and make a pledge if you like! There’s now a ‘no-frills’ level which effectively allows you to pre-order the ebook at the standard purchase price.

And when I get back, there is going to be some very exciting news to share…

Fanfic and me

This one seemed worth re-posting, given the recent announcement from Amazon about publishing fan fiction. Since I wrote this I have deleted my livejournal but I expect there are still copies of my stories in various places there, as well as at the other sites mentioned below.

There is a really fascinating series of posts about fanfiction over at Dear Author at the moment. What’s most interesting to me is the variety of ways in which people have engaged with the fan community and how it relates to their route to original fiction. So by way of adding to the discussion, here’s my story.

I’ve always written fanfiction. Years before the internet and years before I’d ever heard the term, I was writing it. I’d finish reading a book and find that I was still living inside it. I’d want to know more. I’d imagine what happened next, or what happened to the secondary characters, or think about events which had been mentioned in passing but not described in detail. And to get those out of my head, I wrote them down. It wasn’t for other people to read, it was just for my own satisfaction.

At first I scribbled in notebooks, and then I got a computer which I found helped me to write longer, more structure stories. I wrote most of a sequel to Heyer’s The Masqueraders that way and a very long, rambling, shapeless sequel to Antonia Forest’s Marlow books.

And then there was the internet. And on a dull, rainy afternoon, I looked for something to read and after a couple of false starts, I found After The End. I was hooked. This was, I think, after the 5th HP book had been published and it’s a story set after the imagined events of the end of the series. It’s interesting reading it now to see how much they guessed right – and, of course, how much they got wrong. It’s wonderfully written, with a plot of its own, with good characterisation and prose of a high quality. The site that hosts it also had an active forum which included an area for writers interested in developing their skills. Two things happened there: I found someone else who was interested in the Marlows, who pointed me in the direction of their little fan community; and second, I found the people who are still my writing group.

The Marlows was significant for me because the fandom is so small that there is hardly any fanfic at all, and that was what persuaded me to put mine online. People were very kind about it, and that gave me confidence to write more and post more.

The writing group at the Sugar Quill was brilliant. We put up excerpts of writing for feedback each week. We set each other prompts or challenges to try to stretch ourselves. We took it very seriously, even though we were ‘only’ writing fanfic. Practically everything I know about how to write, I learned there. I loved the freedom of fanfic to work on different elements of the craft at a time – characterisation, action scenes, dialogue, world-building, scene-setting, emotional intensity etc, without having to do it all at once, and with immediate feedback. Plus, it’s just really, really fun.

For a long time, I was very clear that I only wanted writing to be a hobby for me. I’m a PhD student in real life and I didn’t want any extra stress. But I did start writing more original stories. It was a natural progression for me – a lot of my HP stories feature original characters. One of my favourites was about an American witch sent over to the UK to work at the Ministry of Magic (she works at the US Ministry – the Pentagram), where she meets in successive chapters each Weasley brother, before finally falling for Charlie (most of my heroines fall for Charlie. It’s the dragons. And the tattoos.)

And then, I can’t quite remember why, I was suddenly submitting books to editors. I had several rejections, self-published a couple, and finally made a sale in November 2011.

I haven’t written fanfic for a while. Partly due to lack of time, and partly because the places where I found my community mostly aren’t very active any more. I’d like to go back to it. Every time I read a book that lives on in my head, I find myself itching to start writing a little scene. One day, maybe I will.

If you’re at all interested, I wrote under the name girlyswot. You’ll find my stories at Phoenix Song, the Sugar Quill and in the Yuletide archives. Or at my livejournal.

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